Sunday, April 14, 2013

Abalone Adventure

April in Norcal means abalone. Divers who have tasted the delicate treat fresh from the sea get geared up for the short, cold water season. We are lucky enough to be friends with two of these ocean adventurers, a father and son team who combined have been diving for close to 60 years, and got invited along for the fun.

After scoping out pretty rough murky water in several of Mike and Josh's favorite diving sites we settled on Stillwater Cove -- not exactly true to it's name this particular day. Although it may be 40 or 50 feet down to where the shellfish are found, abalone divers must "free dive" -- no air tanks -- to reach the rocky habitats. When a diver is lucky enough to find one, the mollusks are pried off the rock and brought to the surface.
The season lasts through the month of April. Each diver is permitted 3 abalone a day and a total of 24 for the season.

Despite the murky water Josh was determined that James and I get our first taste of fresh abalone and kept looking until he retrieved a small sample. Small but legal.

I had never cooked or eaten abalone before. I knew they have to be tenderized but I didn't know how to do it. When I looked a bit skeptical Josh took over. He pounded and pounded and then cut the meat into long, tender slices. I assume he did -- Josh whisked the abalone away and showed up at our door in time for a dinner treat.
Taking our friends advice I pan fried the abalone, breaded in crushed ritz crackers, in butter and olive oil until just cooked through.
Tender, rich, buttery. A clean taste like super fresh scallops but even more delicious. Delicate and delicious. I hope we get invited again!

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